Vendor / MSP Interaction

04 July 2014


I had the pleasure of moderating a discussion at a major Vendor’s MSP Advisory Council this week, which as always was a very interesting event. In attendance were about 10 Managed Service Providers, chosen by this Vendor for their success in representing the Vendor’s product within their service portfolio and a number of Vendor staff.

The intention of the event was to provide the Vendor with some insight into where the MSP’s were taking their business, and therefore allow the Vendor to get feedback on their programmes and activities in this context – and I think it met most of its objectives. Interestingly though, a lot of the discussion was less strategic and more focussed on the more immediate and pressing concerns that MSP’s have about working with the Vendor community. They certainly aren’t unique to this Vendor.

The repeated question of “how do incentives work between different Vendor account teams” kept coming up as the Channel were suffering with channel conflict and competing account managers from within the Vendor community. Also, a significant portion of the discussion regarded how to increase demand generation, especially in the context of the Vendors strategic product set and how the Channel are able to drive this specific demand when their business models are not necessarily aligned to these style of products.

The Vendor in question in my opinion has one of the most broad ranging and effective Channels in the industry, however the engagement with MSP’s and nuances of annuity service provision is causing some turbulence. Until the Vendor and MSP community can align their objectives, the advisory council will be a very robust and interesting dialogue – and unless the Vendor can effect some of the short term changes being requested, their MSP channel may lose faith in its ability to service it for the long term.

In my simple world, the MSP community have a significant number of issues to overcome and the Vendors need to be empathetic to this, then derive a way to help resolve it. The largest immediate issue facing most MSP’s in today’s marketplace is how to differentiate themselves from the ever expanding competitive landscape, with the longer term issue being to clarify how their business model will work in the context of the major cloud vendors. A Vendor who can support MSP’s to create a niche, an industry specialism, an application specialism, a technology specialism is the one who has the upper hand, and if their technology additionally supports the operational integration of multiple cloud delivery models under a single service provider model then that’s a winning formula. The Vendor can then drive Client demand to the MSP community with some knowledge of which MSP is best positioned to satisfy that demand, and the supply chain becomes slick – driving benefits throughout.

As Vendors become obsessive about engagement with MSP’s, MSP’s become obsessive with engagement with Clients and Clients get increasingly disillusioned with cloud due to vague marketing and undeliverable promises, we are in danger of becoming mutually frustrated with over supply and poor demand. However if Vendors can engage their MSP communities with programmes that genuine benefit to specific Clients, Client uptake will increase to support the full community. Where do you start? Vendors need to understand how their products drive Service, not Technology, and MSP’s need to help them articulate how that benefits clients. That’s what the MSP advisory councils should be advising……



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